Monday, September 22, 2008

Transportation policy and the presidential election

With the presidential election right around the corner, there is no better time to delve into the candidates' positions on transportation policy. The Brookings Institute (an independent research and policy institute) has compiled a comparative list of the McCain and Obama positions on transportation policy.

Please note that most of the comparison is from policy statements found on the candidate's respective websites, but some is from press accounts.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

The challenges of determing parking demand

Mary S. Smith is a senior vice president and director of functional design for Indianapolis, Indiana-based Walker Parking Consultants. She is also team leader and principle author of "Shared Parking, Second Edition". I was recently on a panel discussion with her where she spoke about the book. She has also recently written an article in the August 2008 Issue of Urban Land magazine. I was very intrigued by what Mary had to say and write because as a parking consultant, I rely on the "Shared Parking" book and accompanying model to determine parking demand for my clients.

I have often asked my self “how reliable is the standard parking model?” Mary indicates that this issue is very complex. She starts out talking about the challenge of determining demand patterns. She explains that there are many factors that affect demand over time that can not be determined prior to a development being constructed. These include knowing the strengths of the tenants, market forces in the surrounding area, and the mix of tenants at a particular location. As an example, she uses the popularity of restaurant or retail stores, which wax and wane over time. Also, office building tenants change over time, with low employee density law firms being replaced by high density telemarketing firms.

Next Mary spends a great deal of time talking about parking demand (how many spaces should be provided) and how to determine the appropriate parking demand for a particular use and or mix of uses. The bottom line is that this is an even more complex issue than determining demand patterns. However, the industry has settled on an approach that relies on determining a “design day” and adding “effective supply,” then making adjustments for paid parking, mode split and internal capture rates (no one yet has determined what those numbers should be either). I know this does not mean anything to the lay person, but the final conclusion is:

"The Shared Parking model is not intended to be a highly reliable predictor of parking demand at any particular location on a particular day, but rather the recommended number of spaces that should be provided based on a relatively (but not excessively) high standard of care to avoid negative impact on the success of the project."

In other words, the parking demand model will result in enough parking not to get you in trouble but probably more parking than you actually need.
As you can imagine, this conclusion has led to considerable controversy due to the fact that it still leads to some degree of oversupply. Donald Shoup who wrote the "High Cost of Free Parking" has had a lot to say about this.

More about that in my next post.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Get connected - voice your opinion about Atlanta's FIRST comprehensive transportation plan

I recently attended a Stakeholder meeting for the Connect Atlanta Plan and was very impressed with the City's efforts to develop a clear transportation vision for the future. If you have not heard of Connect Atlanta, it is Atlanta’s first Comprehensive Transportation Plan to evaluate all modes of transportation including roadway, air, transit, freight, bicycle, and walking facilities. Yes, I said first. The City incorporated in 1847, and some 160 years later we are in the process of our first Comprehensive Transportation Plan. I guess that is one reason why as a City we struggle so with Transportation.
The plan will guide transportation policy and investment for the next 25 years. I strongly recommend getting involved. Although the plan is well under way, there is still time to comment. The final public meetings begin next Monday.
For more information go to